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Teenage vandal joins volunteers to clean up his graffiti at Oakhurst Library

Renee Chambless, a homeless woman from Oakhurst, sprays down a vandalized mural near Oakhurst Branch Library on Wednesday, May 17. Chambless was more than happy to help clean up the graffiti, committed by a 17-year-old boy from Mariposa, who also joined in the restoration work.
Renee Chambless, a homeless woman from Oakhurst, sprays down a vandalized mural near Oakhurst Branch Library on Wednesday, May 17. Chambless was more than happy to help clean up the graffiti, committed by a 17-year-old boy from Mariposa, who also joined in the restoration work. Sierra Star

The Mountain Area was left shocked and outraged earlier this year when a 17-year-old boy from Mariposa covered the Oakhurst Branch Library, and a nearby mural, in vulgar graffiti.

But recently, that boy joined Youth with A Mission Yosemite (YWAM), a homeless woman, and the artist who painted the mural to help clean up his act.

And, thanks to a donation by the Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, all the murals are going to be coated in graffiti-resistant sealant to ensure they’ll be kept in pristine condition.

“There’s doing something wrong and having the mindset to keep doing something wrong, but then there’s the mindset of doing something wrong, realizing what you’ve done, and doing what you can to make it right,” said Dale Rushing, manager of the library. “We all need that grace, and that mercy. It does my heart good to see somebody like this young man, who made the wrong choices, start making the right ones.”

Lindsey Preciado-Weaver painted all the murals around the library and Oakhurst Community College, including the one that was vandalized March 7. She said soon after the boy’s arrest a week later, he contacted her, completely apologetic for what he had done.

“He was really emotional and he offered to help do whatever he could to fix it,” Preciado-Weaver said. “So I was disappointed at first about the mural, but it’s really great that it can be repaired. I’m really happy about that, and I’m glad he’s able to help.”

Skyler Perry, YWAM’s community outreach leader, said he reached out to Madera County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jacob Tallmon about ways the group could offer community service.

“He told us about what happened with Lindsey’s piece so we thought this would be a great way to reach out and bless both her and the community by helping out,” Perry said. “That’s what I like about this, getting to come together as a family and community and share the love.”

Renee Chambless, a homeless woman from Oakhurst, said Tallmon asked if she’d want to help out, and she was more than ready to accept.

“It was just stupid,” Chambless said of the graffiti. “Doing something like that doesn’t make a statement. It just really needed to be cleaned up, and I was happy to help.”

Thanks to donations from Louis Holzworth and Sierra Mercantile for use of the sprayer and water, work got started Wednesday, May 17, as Chambless sprayed down the mural while Perry, with assistance from YWAM member Emma Smith, weed-eated the brush in front of it.

After priming the affected areas, Preciado-Weaver - joined by the boy whose name will not be released - busted out her brushes and they both got started.

Then, by Saturday, the mural looked good as new with a fresh coat of paint, back to its origins depicting the wonders of outdoor life.

“It’s really nice to live in a town where all these different entities can come together and make this a better place to live,” said Tallmon, who helped out on his days off. “It reminds you of how valuable the people in this area really are.”

Alongside the restored mural, Rushing said the boy has put in more than 12 hours of work at the library out of the 80 required of him after his arrest. He’s cleaned graffiti off of nearby signs, mowed and weed-eated its surrounding land, dusted shelves, and cleaned the building’s windows, Rushing said, all without a single complaint.

“I’m keeping him very busy,” Rushing said. “He’s a nice young man and he does everything I ask him to do without question. And he does it right.

“I think this teaches us a kind of lesson,” Rushing continued. “What matters in life is the people you’re surrounded by. It’s just a good story about a young man who’s found the right path.”

Artwork from Preciado-Weaver, who is available for murals and commissions, can be seen at www.lindseypreciadoart.com.

Editor’s note: This story initially stated the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce made a donation to help fund restoration work on the murals. The Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce Foundation actually provided the funding. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused.

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